Everyone experiences the holiday season a little differently. Personally, I am in love with dark & cozy nights during the winter months. I prepare hot drinks, curl up on the sofa with a warm blanket, light candles, and simply enjoy the peace and quiet. I really couldn’t ask for more. Just thinking about it makes me feel happy.
However, for many, this description is enough to make them a little sick. Even some of my closest family members equate winter with limited fresh air and time spent in the great outdoors, minimal sunshine, and worse yet - a cold or contracting flu infections. On the flip side, winter can signify the start of Christmas holidays and the stress of upcoming financial and social responsibilities that can be anxiety-triggering and overwhelming at the very least.
Sound dramatic? In truth, 14% of Americans admit to experiencing some form of winter blues. So indeed, they are a thing.
So what exactly are the holiday blues? How do they differ from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how can we effectively identify and manage the symptoms? Today, we’ll examine how plant-based Boswellia Serrata can help to cope with the holiday blues and how it can become part of maintaining a healthy mood and mindset throughout the winter months.
Who could tell us about the holiday blues better than someone who actually struggles with them? Cate A. is an academic researcher that has been diagnosed with holiday blues depression. We met in a workshop related to mental health and had the following conversation:
“Actually, it isn’t easy to get a diagnosis for holiday blues depression," she answered. "Almost everyone I know who suffers from this depression has had the common belief of trying to 'wait it out', and that eventually, it will pass. Barbara Hambly is an example of this scenario, as it took several years of depression before she was medically diagnosed with SAD".
“For me personally, I have started feeling less energetic with a greater tendency to sleep more and spend more time in my bed. However, the more pronounced symptoms are related to my work. I have had problems with motivation and focus, which is unusual for me and eventually, I called a psychiatric emergency service and they were very helpful".
"Yes, SAD is one of the few psychiatric conditions with a predictable time of onset and remission. It has a characteristic set of symptoms and responds to a specific treatment, namely bright light".
"SAD is developed during autumn or winter months and remitted the following spring or summer, occurring for at least 2 successive years to be diagnosed as depression".
"SAD is more of a biological reaction to how the body reacts to an environmental condition and lesser exposure the to the sun. The holiday blues, by contrast, is more of a situational reaction or stress reaction than it is biological. This simply means that you may have experienced the loss of a loved one in a previous holiday, so the holiday is somewhat connected to a bad feeling that you remember every holiday. Furthermore, the on-going stress from social engagements and a busier schedule that includes relatives and close family can also be particularly anxiety and stress-inducing. Many times, this is also coupled with feelings of financial stress and obligation of having to buy gifts for everyone you’re spending the holidays with."
"Luckily, symptoms of the holiday blues are often much milder than symptoms of SAD, which may be associated with difficulty in remembering things or experiencing anxiety and anger, as well as a strong desire for isolation".
"First and most importantly, part of the treatment was simply hope. And as Dwayne Johnson 'The Rock' who suffered from bad depression period said, 'one of the most important things you should realize in depression is that you're not alone'".
“The second tactic which helped me was to plan ahead before the holidays. Knowing how I will spend most of my time, including managing family parties is very important. My own plan was to spend more time with close friends and family members and avoid being alone altogether. This prevents me from over-thinking everything and revisiting the triggering memory of losing my mom in a previous holiday. I think the latter was a major factor that contributed to my holiday depression in the first place".
"Thirdly, I wanted something to relieve my own pains but free from the over-reliance on pharmaceuticals and their endless list of cautions and side effects. For this reason, I looked for a natural, plant-based option to manage my mood. Luckily, my search guided me to Boswellia Serrata extract and it was a good choice for me".
As a pharmacologist myself, I know that Boswellia Serrata is a very effective choice for improving your mood and I shared with her a bit more information about this effective remedy used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Boswellia extract, also known as (‘frankincense’ ‘olibanum’) is an all-natural herb used historically in Ayurvedic practices that were closely related to religious and cultural ceremonies. Like almost every herb, the traditional use for it was based on a “trial and error” basis far removed from scientific approval that has taken place after many years of labs testing, experiments, and clinical trials.
In the 11th century, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) mentioned the use of frankincense in inflammation and infection of the urinary tract and suggested that "it is beneficial for amentia and amnesia". In Ayurveda, the Indian medical tradition, Boswellia resin was reported to have caused a strong effect on the nervous system.
Later on, the effects of Boswellia Serrata were put to the test by many research groups that focused on boswellic neuroactive ingredients. Its robust anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects were found to be attributed to Incensole Acetate, which was found to exert anxiolytic, anti-depressive and sedative effects in preclinical studies.
Boswellia is assumed to elucidate such central neuronal effects by modulating the TRPV3 channel, Transient receptor potential (TRP) on channels that are involved in the transduction of a wide variety of sensations. So being involved in such neuronal effects implies that TRPV3 channels in the brain may play a role in emotional regulation(1).
Furthermore, some researchers point to Incensole Acetate as a novel anxiolytic and anti-depressive agent and concluded that although anti-anxiety and anti-depressive drugs have evolved, new types of such drugs are needed in order to provide alternatives for people who experience adverse side-effects of pharmaceutical options. By contrast, herbal medicine in general and Incensole Acetate in particular, does not cause any known adverse side effects in humans.
Ironically, after almost 40 years of research, the historical traditions of thousands of years ago have been approved by modern science, which in turn widens our insights to look for novel physics active drugs (2).
I thanked Cate a lot for sharing with me her story and for her precious advice.
In conclusion, if you are suffering from feelings of anxiety due to the upcoming holidays or facing discomfort this time of year, you could try Boswellia Serrata as a way to manage these symptoms.
Amandean Premium Boswellia Serrata Extract is a trusted product and brand which uses boswellia extract from the premium third harvest of gum resin. This is characterized by being one of the purest sources and contains a potent minimum of 65% boswellic acids.
Moussaieff, A., & Mechoulam, R. (2009). Boswellia resin: from religious ceremonies to medical uses; a review of in-vitro, in-vivo and clinical trials. Journal Of Pharmacy And Pharmacology, 61(10), 1281-1293. doi: 10.1211/jpp.61.10.0003
Moussaieff, A., Rimmerman, N., Bregman, T., Straiker, A., Felder, C., & Shoham, S. et al. (2008). Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain. The FASEB Journal, 22(8), 3024-3034. doi: 10.1096/fj.07-101865